‘Cyworld’ hopes to challenge Facebook, MySpace

A Korean company wonders if Americans consider social sites like MySpace to be as close to their hearts as their friends.

Cyworld, the Korean equivalent of networking sites like MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook, hopes that American teenagers and college students are open to meeting a new friend.

That friend is Cyworld.

Launched in America in August, Cyworld is an Internet social site with a decidedly different feel from its American counterparts.

The site’s colors are bright. The faces smile. Today’s featured topic is chocolate.

On the site, users can build a personal space called a “Minihome” and fill them with animals, furniture, and miniature people.

These minihomes also include photo galleries, videos, and personal message boards.

Of course, all of these things come with a price. In order to purchase the “skins,” “charms” and items for your minihome you must deal in Cyworld currency – the acorn.

If this all sounds a bit different from American based networking sites, that’s good. It’s supposed to.

“Cy” is the Korean word for “relationship,” and the site focuses on building relationships.

Cyworld promises to be the place to sustain trusted friendships as well as build new ones through creative expression.

Though all of this may sound a bit too touchy-feely for many, Cyworld is big business.

Cyworld is operated by SK Communications, which is owned by SK Telecom, one of South Korea’s largest telecommunications companies.

In Korea, having the best minihome, or “mini-hompy,” is a personal obsession for almost one-third of the country. Last year, acorns meant millions.

It remains to be seen, though, if Cyworld has a place in the American way of life.

Though almost every college student has heard of MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook, relatively few know about Cyworld.

This is in spite of the fact that Cyworld has hired one of the world’s biggest public relations firms to get the word out.

When asked if she would be willing to switch sites University of Maryland graduate student Annie Cook seemed doubtful.

“I don’t think I would because I’m lazy. I’m pretty used to Facebook,” Cook said.

Cyworld hopes to change her mind.

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